(Credit: Yvonne Leonard)

Voices From The Cheap Seats: Talk Of A Stewart/Ward Settlement Is Ludicrous!

I know this is a controversial subject, but after reading some press releases by some so-called prominent lawyers, I refuse to remain silent.

“I think he will end up settling,” said Greg Bloom, an attorney at the Miami firm Chase Lawyers, which represents athletes and entertainers, said of Tony Stewart and the potential outcome of the civil case following Kevin Ward, Jr.’s death in Canandaigua, N.Y., reports Beyond the Flag. “If I was to advise him, I would advise the same because he wants everything to be behind him. Everyone wants this whole story to be behind him, so he can move forward professionally and the memory of the deceased can rest.”

John M. Hochfelder, a New York lawyer who runs a blog and database on injury case damages in New York, said, “All the (criminal) acquittal means is that the prosecution did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt, according to the jury, that a crime was committed. That standard is much, much higher than the civil standard, which is a preponderance of the evidence, a tipping of the scales. We call it ‘the more likely than not’ standard. … (In this case), it’s more likely than not that you should have been more careful and your lack of care, we conclude, caused an injury.”

And another shark, Michael McCann, a Massachusetts attorney who founded the University of New Hampshire’s Sports and Entertainment Law Institute: “The likelihood that Tony Stewart reaches an adequate settlement is very high. He has reason to settle a case like this even if he believes he did nothing wrong.”

This kind of bullcrap is one of the biggest problems with our country today.

The following is how I, if I’d have had the motivation to actually become a lawyer – and a very good one at that, I might add – would advise or tell the parties involved.

To the Family of Kevin Ward, Jr.

I am truly saddened and sorry for your tragic loss. No parent should outlive their children and have to suffer through the agony of losing one. It is not how the nature of life is supposed to go. Unfortunately, life does not always play by our rules and tragic things like this happen. My thoughts and prayers go out to you.

That being said, it is time to face the reality of the situation. Evidence, along with a grand jury of common folk such as you and me, shows that the death of your son was nothing more than an accident. Not only does the grand jury believe this but more importantly, but millions of racing fans do as well – even most of the ones who dislike Tony Stewart. Not only that, but we all felt that way before it was released to the general public that Kevin had marijuana in his system.

Here is a point I would like to stress: I do not believe you son was under the influence of pot at the time of his death. Just because it was in his system does not mean he was high, as any pot smoker – myself included at his age – knows and will tell you. The pot issue, as far as I am concerned, is a non-issue.

This may be hard to hear but the simple and only reason your son is dead is because he suffered a serious lack of judgment in an emotional situation (a sporting event no less) and did something very, very stupid. It sucks but that is the truth, especially considering the sport in which he was participating.

Now, after all that, I would advise careful consideration if you are thinking of filing a wrongful death civil suit against Tony Stewart.

First of all, it truly comes off as just a ploy for money – not, as one of the lawyers called it, “and the memory of the deceased can rest.” That is simple hogwash. No, it’s not “fair” that your son is dead but life doesn’t play fair, as we all know.

If I had been sitting in that seat and I’d been the one who hit your son, you sure as heck would not be thinking of suing me. Why? Because I got nothing! Tony Stewart is famous and has lots of money. Any suit against him in this case, especially in light of what Kevin did and other facts that have since been released (whether relevant or not, i.e. the toxicology report) will do nothing to positively further the memory of your son among the general populace.

And furthermore, while I am sure that you are still reeling from your loss emotionally, you know deep down that what I am saying here is true.

Credit: CIA Editorial Photography
Tony Stewart’s fatal incident with Kevin Ward, Jr. continues to divide fan opinions across NASCAR nation. (Credit: CIA Stock Photography)

Now, on the other hand, should Tony Stewart reach out to you, and offer you some type of monetary compensation for your loss, simply out of the goodness of his heart and because he has the means to do so, without the threat of a lawsuit, well, that is something else and no one would begrudge you that. But again, that is without the threat of a lawsuit.

Any threat of a lawsuit, in the eyes of the public, will be seen as nothing more than the exploitation of the rich and famous person who happened to hit your son, and nothing more.

I know, life sometimes sucks. We all have to live it.

Again, my thoughts and prayers truly with you.

 

And now, to Tony Stewart.

We all know it was an accident. It is hard for most of us to imagine what you have and are possibly still going through.

Please, despite what lawyers may tell you, if there is a lawsuit or the threat of one, don’t pay out one thin dime. Take it to the jury. Surely you have enough money to hire one as smart or as good as I would have been.

If, as a certain lawyer alluded to, you are worried about your reputation, don’t be. The public knows the truth.

The best thing – and this is strictly up to you, of course – I would advise that you reach out to the Wards, with no lawyers involved (if you haven’t already done so), and come to some agreeable reconciliation, simply because you have the means to do so.

As I expressed to the Wards, if it was me that had been in that race car, all I would be able to offer is a woefully inadequate apology and my prayers and any other help, again however inadequate, that I could. You, however, have the means to change their lives out of the goodness (and sadness) of your heart.

But again, it has to be a genuine gesture to be offered (and accepted) without any coercion from the threat of lawsuits, lawyers, the media or anyone else other than Tony Stewart and the Ward family.

That is how you save a reputation and also honor the memory of Kevin Ward, Jr.

Stay off the wall,

Jeff Meyer

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Jeff is one of the longest-tenured staffers at Frontstretch, starting his second decade as the resident humorist and pain-in-the-butt that keeps NASCAR (and his fellow co-workers) honest. Writing Voices From The Cheap Seats, every Tuesday, his BSNews! Segments along with alter ego “Stu Padasso” have developed a large following. Jeff makes his home in Tennessee and is a Bristol groupie, camping out for the August night race every year since he can remember.

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15 comments

  1. Avatar

    I agree. The best thing about the truth is it is the only story you have to remember. If Tony Stewart is innocent, he should fight to keep his name cleared, though it may not be expedient. Nothing will bring Kevin Ward Jr. back and this nightmare is something all involved with have to live with the rest of their lives.

  2. Avatar

    I find your civic spirit encouraging, too bad it took a sports star to get people thinking about how the system works. I agree about the Mary Jane in the system. It seems very timely that bomb was dropped at just the right time. And the pious pill popping, alcohol drinking folks (because it’s legal of course), found a sure fire way to defend their hero unconditionally with a clear conscience and make the inconvenience in Tony’s life the bad guy throughout the whole sorted affair.

    • Avatar

      I’m pretty sure that if alcohol had been found in Ward’s system that information would have been released as well. The fact that marijuana is illegal is irrelevant in this case. The fact that ANY substance that might impare Ward’s judgement was found in his system is entirely relevant because his poor judgement is what led to his death.

  3. Avatar

    The reality of the legal system is that they can sue and if they do they will get, most likely, a huge payment. I’m not saying it’s right but that’s reality. So, if you accept that premise, what makes more sense?… To settle and make a payment to end it all or to drag it out, make a bunch of lawyers rich, and end up paying even more in the long run.

    And don’t think for a minute that if it were you they wouldn’t sue just because your pockets aren’t as deep. People who aren’t rich get sued all the time. Ever hear of garnishing wages?

    I think the whole problem with your logic (beside not realizing how many frivolous lawsuits end up with huge settlements) is in the line
    “If, as a certain lawyer alluded to, you are worried about your reputation, don’t be. The public knows the truth.”
    You are assuming the “public” is made up of Tony Stewart and NASCAR fans. No sir, most likely the jury will be 12 people who don’t know anything about racing or Tony Stewart. All they will see is that video of the accident and hear about Tony’s past incidences where his temper got the best of him.

    So, while your article is correct on so many levels, what you are failing to weigh is the reality of the legal system and how broken it is.

    • Avatar

      Bill, I think your view is more in touch with the reality of the situation. Two points which touched on a little bit, are the key to the situation. Stewart, because he is so heavily (as are most racing organizations) dependent on sponsors desperately needs this to go away as soon and as quitely as possible. And the public sentiment isn’t nearly as strongly on his side as the Nascar community might be.
      So I would expect a settlement to be done quickly and quietly.

  4. Avatar

    It’s all about the levels…the report stated that the level of pot in Ward’s blood was enough to cause impairment. We’re not talking about a detectable trace level that was left over from a weekend of fun. He was impaired and a danger to everyone around him.

  5. Avatar

    If the Ward family is going after the money, by all means go for it. After all, Lawyers and Court Trials have nothing to do with justice of who is right and who is wrong, but who wins and who loses. Anyone ever hear of OJ Simpson.

  6. Avatar

    I have always found it unseemly when the survivors of someone who dies tragically view the loss of a loved one as if it is a lottery win. Finally, I agree with Jeff, he would have been a fine lawyer. Lawyers believe what they are paid to believe, sort of like NASCAR writers.

  7. Avatar

    Stewart will take care of the Ward family, no need for lawyers or courts.

  8. Avatar

    The main reason Tony will settle is the fact that while a plaintiff’s attorney will likely take this case on a “contingency fee” only getting money if there is a jury reward or settlement, Tony will have to pay his defense lawyers out of his own pocket. With his assets, it’s better to just pay the family off and have it go away v. risking a jury trial and a huge verdict on top of legal bills. Is right, probably not, but it happens everyday with personal injury lawsuits nationwide. The family will want to settle ultimately because Tony can afford top notch defense work and his lawyers will put Kevin Ward and his actions on trial. On top of that, there is substantial risk they will lose or a jury will find both sides at fault and any damages will get reduced substantially.

  9. Avatar

    Jeff wrote: “Now, on the other hand, should Tony Stewart reach out to you, and offer you some type of monetary compensation for your loss, simply out of the goodness of his heart and because he has the means to do so, without the threat of a lawsuit, well, that is something else and no one would begrudge you that. But again, that is without the threat of a lawsuit.”

    This is what I would do. Tony could start a fund to pay Kevin Ward’s funeral expenses, and donate to the fund, as long as the family agrees not to file a wrongful death or other civil suit.

  10. Avatar

    I said this the when it happen LAWSUIT… Tony is a big name star with Money and the lawyers will line up to take it on. it this was just another Saturday night driver you would not hear a thing But this is Tony

  11. Avatar

    In the court of public opinion, it won’t matter if Tony avoids a lawsuit by working out something directly with the Ward family. To them it will look like a payoff. I think the Wards case against Tony got a lot weaker when it was revealed that Kevin had pot in his system. Will it be enough to exonerate Stewart is up for debate.

    I too find it strange the timing of the revelation of Wards toxicology report coming out.

  12. Avatar

    A few clarifications: the standard for a grand jury is different than for a trial jury. Stewart faced no charges, not because the prosecutor couldn’t prove culpability beyond a reasonable doubt, but rather because the grand jury didn’t feel there was enough evidence to even go to trial. In other words, the prosecutor couldn’t even meet the lower threshold, one that is a lot closer to the threshold of a civil suit.

    Two, the marijuana is not irrelevant. It was in his system and the prosecutor said at a high enough level to impair judgment. As an aside, how stupid does a driver have to be to race with marijuana in his system? You want heightened awareness, not the calming effect of pot. If his fellow racers knew that he was under the influence, he never would have been able to race. People under the influence do stupid things, and one of which can be misjudging distance and getting way too close to a moving car.

    Three, we don’t know what Stewart told the police. Did he said he saw Ward, but too late to do anything about it? Or did he say he never saw the guy, but just felt a bump? If the latter, where’s the responsibility? You’re not responsible if someone runs in front of your car while you’re driving down the road. Why is the standard any different here?

    And fourth, every racer signs a waiver of some kind before getting into the car. I don’t know the particulars of this waiver, but some require the participant to waive filing claims against anyone else (the track, fellow races, etc.) except in cases of extreme negligence or something that rises to the level of criminality, neither of which seem to be present.

    Stewart may decide to pay something anyway. But not because he’s likely to lose, but just to make the thing go away.

    • Avatar

      “You’re not responsible if someone runs in front of your car while you’re driving down the road. Why is the standard any different here?”

      Yes yes yes!!! I’ve been saying the same thing on all the articles I’ve seen to people who think Tony is guilty of murder.